Sharks and rays win new protections at global wildlife summit

Source: The Guardian

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Devil rays swim slowly in groups, and are very easy to catch. Their gill plates have become popular as a supposed medicine in China. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Silky sharks, thresher sharks and devil rays all won new protections at a global wildlife summit late on Monday.

Sharks are the ocean’s top predators and play a vital role in many ecosystems but many species have been decimated by uncontrolled fishing, particularly the trade in fins which are used in soup in Asia.

The 182 nations of the Convention in the Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), meeting in Johannesburg, voted to put in place its first measures to control the trade in these species. The move, along with protections for five other sharks at the previous Cites summit in 2013, suggest the tide is turning for sharks.

About 100 million sharks are killed every year, driven by a $1bn annual trade, and only a fraction have had any protection. Many of the predators are now among the most threatened creatures on the planet. But the new action by Cites has doubled to 20% the proportion of sharks targeted by the fin trade that are now regulated.

All the species protected by Cites on Monday are slow to mature and produce only a small number of pups at a time, making them particularly vulnerable to overexploitation.

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High seas fisheries: what role for a new international instrument?

The Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) has released a new discussion paper on fisheries to coincide with the second session of the PrepCom for a new agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.
The discussion paper, High seas fisheries: what role for a new international instrument?, is available here: http://www.iddri.org/Publications/High-seas-fisheries-what-role-for-a-new-international-instrument

 

This discussion paper is accompanied by a short brief, An overview of vulnerable marine ecosystem closures, available here: http://www.iddri.org/Publications/An-overview-of-vulnerable-marine-ecosystem-closures
We are interested in hearing your comments and feedback, which would help us to further develop these proposals.
Two previous publications may also be of interest to those following the negotiations:

European Community Reaches Agreement to Protect Deep Sea Fish, Sponges and Corals

The European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission  reached an agreement on July 30, 2016 to better protect deep-sea fish, sponges and corals while maintaining the viability of the European fishing industry. The agreement brings the EU rules on deep-sea fisheries, which date back to 2003, in line with the sustainability targets enshrined in the EU’s reformed Common Fisheries Policy.
The text agreed contains a number of provisions that will help better protect the European deep seas. From now on, fishermen may only target deep-sea fish in areas where they have fished in the past (their so-called ‘fishing footprint’), thereby ensuring that pristine environments remain untouched. Trawls below 800m will be banned completely in EU waters, and areas with vulnerable marine environments (VMEs) will be closed to bottom fishing below 400m. To further protect VMEs, fishermen will have to report how many deep-sea sponges or corals they catch and move on to other fishing grounds in case a certain maximum amount has been reached.
These measures are complemented by a reinforced observers’ scheme that will improve the scientific understanding of the deep sea. Finally, specific measures, for example landings in designated ports, will be taken to improve enforcement and control. Fishing authorisations may ultimately be withdrawn in case of failure to comply with the new rules.
Deep-sea species are caught in deep waters in the Atlantic beyond the main fishing grounds on the continental shelves, in depths up to 1500 metres. This is a fragile environment which, once damaged, is unlikely to recover. Highly vulnerable to fishing, deep-sea fish stocks are quick to collapse and slow to recover because they reproduce at low rates.
Deep-sea fisheries in the North-East Atlantic are pursued in EU waters, including the outermost regions of Portugal and Spain, and in international waters governed by conservation measures adopted within the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), in which the EU participates along with the other countries fishing in the area.
Deep-sea fisheries account for about 1% of fish landed from the North-East Atlantic. The catches – and related jobs – have been declining for years, due to depleted stocks. The poor state of key deep-sea stocks and the lack of scientific data clearly demonstrated that a better management framework for deep-sea fisheries was necessary.

How MPAs can help mitigate impacts of climate change via coastal blue carbon, “fish carbon”, and more

mpa-news-logo-squareSource: MPA News

When nations gathered in Paris last December to forge a pact on climate change, the agreement’s original text made no mention at all of oceans.  Not only did this oversight ignore 71% of Earth’s surface; it also overlooked the fact that marine ecosystems act as an enormous climate control system.

The seas regulate the concentration of atmospheric CO2 worldwide by absorbing and storing it in a variety of ways.  A healthy, resilient ocean – where there is abundant plant life to convert CO2 to oxygen, and abundant animal populations to store carbon in their shells, bodies, and wastes – may be key to helping mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Marine protected areas can play a role in fostering that healthy, resilient ocean.  To be sure, addressing the enormous threat of global climate change will require much, much more than just MPAs.  But MPAs do offer legitimate ways to store carbon and to offset some of the impacts of a changing climate.  And practitioners are starting to explore some of these opportunities.

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Microplastics killing fish before they reach reproductive age, study finds

Source: The Guardian

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A pike (Esox lucius) feeds on perch that have ingested microplastic particles. Photograph: Oona Lönnstedt/Science

Fish are being killed, and prevented from reaching maturity, by the litter of plastic particles finding their way into the world’s oceans, new research has proved.

Some young fish have been found to prefer tiny particles of plastic to their natural food sources, effectively starving them before they can reproduce.

The growing problem of microplastics – tiny particles of polymer-type materials from modern industry – has been thought for several years to be a peril for fish, but the study published on Thursday is the first to prove the damage in trials.

Microplastics are near-indestructible in natural environments. They enter the oceans through litter, when waste such as plastic bags, packaging and other convenience materials are discarded. Vast amounts of these end up in the sea, through inadequate waste disposal systems and sewage outfall.

Another growing source is microbeads, tiny particles of hard plastics that are used in cosmetics, for instance as an abrasive in modern skin cleaners. These easily enter waterways as they are washed off as they are used, flushed down drains and forgotten, but can last for decades in our oceans.

The impact of these materials has been hard to measure, despite being a growing source of concern. Small particles of plastics have been found in seabirds, fish and whales, which swallow the materials but cannot digest them, leading to a build-up in their digestive tracts.

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State of Sustainability Initiatives Review: Standards and the Blue Economy

ssi-blue-economy-2016-coverTHE SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD MARKET IS SURGING

This report examines market and performance trends of the nine most prevalent seafood certification schemes, including the Marine Stewardship Council, GLOBAL G.A.P. and Friend of the Sea. 
The report finds that in 2015 demand from big retailers and restaurant chains pushed suppliers to certify a catch valued at $11.5 billion USD. Sustainable seafood now accounts for 14 per cent of global production, a dramatic rise from just 0.5 per cent in 2005.
However, the majority of certified seafood does not offer comprehensive protection of worker’s rights. The authors  call for targeted investment in developing country certification in order to facilitate transformative change on a global scale.
The SSI Review is a collaborative effort by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the International Institute for Environment and Development and the Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade.